Seton Academy 45 Westminster Christian 42
With her team trailing at halftime, Seton Academy’s Brittany Mitchell knew it was her time to take over. And she did not disappoint.
Mitchell scored 17 points in the second half and knocked down the game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer as the Sting defeated Westminster Christian 45-42 to win the Willows Academy Class 1A Sectional on Thursday in Des Plaines.
“It’s my last year. I just felt like it was my team, and today I had to take over. I’m the senior, the captain. I just had to do it for my team,” said an emotional Mitchell.
Westminster’s McKaila Hays made a layup to even the score 42-42 with eight seconds left. Mitchell then took the inbound pass and dribbled down the right side of the court. As time was ticking down, she threw up the game-winning shot.
“It was unbelievable. The shot felt good, just like the rest of them. But, I’m just happy it went in,” said Mitchell.
Westminster got off to a sloppy start, turning the ball over ten times in the first quarter. After Hays tied the game 4-4 with a lay-up, the Warriors turned the ball over on seven straight possessions. The Sting capitalized, going on a 7-0 run. Sophomore Ebony Bailey tallied nine points and four rebounds in the first quarter and the Sting led 13-9 after eight minutes of play.
Whitney Vanden Bos knocked down two free throws to give the Warriors their first lead of the game, 16-15, with just under three minutes remaining in the second quarter. Westminster dominated the second quarter, outscoring the Sting 15 to six, and went into halftime with a 24-19 lead.
The third quarter was the Brittany Mitchell show. Mitchell made three three-pointers and scored 12 points in the third quarter. The senior capped off a 16-2 Sting run with a four-point play that set off an eruption in the Seton student section. The Sting went into the fourth quarter with a 35-30 lead.
“They didn’t break, they didn’t crack, they stayed strong the whole time. We came in the locker room down five points, and we hadn’t been down at all the entire playoffs,” said Seton head coach Kevin Green. “So we came in with our heads low and had a nice speech from our assistant coach, and we came out and reacted in the second half.”
Seton went ice cold after their big third quarter run, going seven minutes without a point. However, the Warriors were only able to score four points during the Sting’s drought.
Westminster’s Claire Speweik completed an old-fashioned three-point play to tie the score 37-37 with three and half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Hays split a pair of free-throws to give the Warriors their first lead of the fourth quarter, 40-39, with 35 seconds left.
On the ensuing Sting possession, Bailey drove to the basket, put in a lay-up off the glass and got fouled. The sophomore made the free throw to give Seton a 42-40 lead with 16 seconds left.
Hays then took the inbounds pass for Westminster and sprinted down the court. The sophomore put in a lightly contested lay-up to tie the score at 42 with just eight seconds remaining.
“That was my mistake,” said Green. “I thought we were up three and I told them ‘let them go to the basket and score’ so we could get it out real quick. But, Brittany saved me today.”
Mitchell took the inbounds pass, raced down the court, and swished the game-winning three-pointer. Mitchell soon found herself on the bottom of a dog-pile of her teammates and some Seton fans.
“Brittany turned it up big time. She really did,” said Green, who’s in his first year coaching for the Sting. “Brittany and me had a talk and I told her we’re going to go as far as she helps us go. And tonight, she helped us go where we needed to go.”
Mitchell led Seton (24-8) with 20 points, while Bailey had 15 points, five rebounds and five steals for the Sting.
Hays led the Warriors (22-9) with 14 points, while Speweik and Porsche Griggs both added eight points.
Seton Academy advances to Monday’s supersectional against Freeport-Aquin in DeKalb with high expectations.
“I’m excited to make it this far,” said Mitchell. “But I just want to win it all.”
I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times and yourseason.com. It appears here.